Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem to serve food and pass out presents on Christmas Day.
In a “very materialistic society,” people don’t always count their blessings, de Blasio told the crowd at Sharpton’s National Action Network on Friday.
The New York City mayor wore an apron to help dish out donated food to some of the hundreds of people who lined up.
“Our blessings are not about what our material wealth is,” de Blasio said. “It’s not about what presents are under the tree. Our blessings are each other. Our blessings are our friends, our loved ones.”
He said blessings include “everyone who’s fighting for justice.” He said activists helped move the city forward and were part of how officials “addressed the broken policy of stop-and-frisk.”
Sharpton said society needs to deal with gun violence but “we proved you can bring down stop-and-frisk and bring down crime at the same time.”
The NYPD’s most recent statistics from Dec. 20 show that though crime has fallen overall by 2.1 percent compared with a year ago, homicides rose 5.3 percent to 339, rapes rose 5.7 percent to 1,392 and robberies are up 2.3 percent to 16,374.
Sharpton praised Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who had welcomed two refugee families at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Refugees have become a national political issue, with some candidates calling for stricter screenings or restrictions on entry for people fleeing to the United States from war-torn countries.
“Jesus was a refugee,” Sharpton said. “You can’t worship a refugee on Sunday and talk about keeping refugees out of the country on Monday.”
Christmas is a “refugee holiday,” Sharpton said.
“Jesus and Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt,” Sharpton said. “We are blessed and we must share our blessings.”
Organizers said they expected between 300 and 500 people to come for the food and presents. At 1 p.m. more than 100 people packed the room as about 60 stood on line outside waiting for a feast of turkey, ham, collard greens, candied yams, mashed potatoes and more.
Sheryl Payne, 59, a nursing assistant from the Bronx, brought her nine grandchildren for the toys. Their haul was mostly toy musical instruments and Payne said she was looking forward to them playing later.
“Life is good,” Payne said. “As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.”